Waste Management

As with any mining activity, New Gold’s operations generate process waste. Process waste includes barren rock (not containing economically viable minerals) in the form of tailings or waste rock (coarser broken rock), which must be stored in a geochemically and geotechnically stable manner. This is also true for the remnant heap leach piles that are left after metals have been extracted.

At New Gold, we are committed to excellence in the management of tailings, heap leach and waste rock storage facilities, and have adopted internationally recognized standards, including the Mining Association of Canada’s Towards Sustainable Mining Tailings Management Protocol. Our Tailings, Heap Leach and Waste Rock Facilities Management Policy commits us to identify, assess and control risks associated with these facilities.

Tailings Management

New Gold observes and fulfills the Tailings Management Protocol from Towards Sustainable Mining, the Mining Association of Canada’s commitment to responsible mining. Our New Afton Mine, in particular, has seen excellent improvement in its ratings for tailings management in 2015.

In 2015, we implemented our first Independent Tailings Review Board (ITRB) and had our first meeting at the New Afton site. The ITRB was established to provide independent, third-party reviews of all technical aspects of the tailings storage facilities operated by New Gold. ITRBs are considered best practice in tailings management and were one of the main recommendations in the report by the expert panel that investigated 2014's major tailings dam incident at the Mount Polley Mine (a mine unrelated to New Gold) in British Columbia.

In accordance with new regulatory requirements, New Afton updated inundation studies and tested its emergency response plan modelled on extreme weather events and conditions. New Afton also performed geotechnical drilling beneath the current dam to ensure that the design of the current and future dam considers this data. This means that the tailings dam is as structurally safe as possible, meeting or exceeding the requirements of regulators, and also that there is an understanding of the flow of tailing material in the unlikely event of a failure. The modelling has led to additional earth works to mitigate flow leaving the site in such circumstance, as well as to influence crisis management and emergency response preparation. All information has been shared with nearby neighbours, local communities and Aboriginal groups.

In 2015, the New Afton Mine had very good results from its efforts to reduce minor tailing spills at valves and pipes along its tailing line and infrastructure, with an outstanding 84% reduction on externally reportable spills and a 93% reduction on total tailing spills when compared to 2014. This was achieved by consistent implementation of critical assessment and predictive and preventive maintenance.

Performance in 2015

In 2015, almost 46.5 million tonnes of waste rock and 5.6 million tonnes of tailings were produced and brought to surface. Waste rock is used as backfill underground and is not included in our figures. The waste rock tonnes are expected to vary over time as opportunities for using this as backfill underground are prioritized over trucking or hoisting to surface, in the case of our underground operations. Mining of waste rock is minimized as part of our optimized mine plans. Tailings production went up with the increased production at our New Afton Mine during 2015.

Process Waste

Waste Types 2013 2014 2015
Waste rock (000s tonnes)1 47,715 61,664 46,447
Tailings (000s tonnes) 4,736 4,686 5,648

The waste rock reported by Peak Mines and New Afton refers only to materials brought to the surface.


Typically, recycled materials include used oils and lubricants, tires, scrap metal, plastics, aluminum, cardboard and batteries. Recycling of non-process waste is an essential part of good environmental management and is practised at all New Gold sites.

We aim to recycle the maximum amount achievable and available, with each site seeking to improve their recycling levels year-on-year through site-based management plans and awareness training. Recycling of oils and lubricants has remained consistent over the past three years, as this is not influenced to the same extent by stockpiling and batch recycling programs. 2015 saw a decrease in recycling of paper, plastics and metals, primarily due to scrap metal recycling at New Afton related to the demolition of an old mill and infrastructure in the 2012‒2013 period. Similarly, tire recycling has continued its downward trend as expected. This is due in part to recycling of stockpiled tires at the New Afton site in 2013.

In 2015, Cerro San Pedro composted 2.76 tonnes of material for use in the topsoil stockpiles or for the greenhouse, where we have a seedling nursery for future reclamation.